Tucson Meet Yourself celebrates local cultures this weekend
Tucson Meet Yourself is coming back to Downtown Tucson for the 48th time this weekend. The free festival features booths with vendors, food, performers and more.
After going virtual in 2020, the long-running celebration of Tucson's culture was scaled back last year.
For 2022, organizers are pulling out the stops, and have taken steps toward sustainability, said Kimi Eisele, a folklorist and spokesperson for the Southwest Folklife Alliance.
In past years, they would sell water bottles to raise money. However, the result was lots of plastic waste. Eisele said she had been "pushing" towards "greening up" the three-day event.
"I'm actually very excited about this," Eisele said. "We are encouraging people to bring their reusable water bottles. We'll have multiple water refill stations. We'll also have nice aluminum Tucson Meet Yourself canteens for sale."
Tucson Meet Yourself was founded by University of Arizona anthropologist and folklorist James "Big Jim" Griffith in 1974, alongside his wife, Loma Griffith. Big Jim died in December 2021 at 86 years of age.
"He would come to the festival each year," Eisele said. "We'll have him here in spirit this year."
Southwest Folklife Alliance commissioned an altar to honor Griffith, where people can pay their respects by leaving an offering or sharing a story about him.
Griffith's shrine won't be the only new addition to the event. Each time, the experience is different despite it being an annual event.
"The festival has many aspects of tradition that it showcases, but it's always a little bit different because tradition is never static," Eisele said.
This year, there will be approximately 50 booths offering diverse cuisine including Afghan, Filipino, French, Puerto Rican, Egyptian, Tohono O'Odham fry bread and more. The food vendors will be located at Jácome Plaza.
There will also be two new interactive tents there - the Memory Tent: Songs of Love and Aging and TMC Health's Movement and Wellness tent. The Memory Tent will provide a space for conversations about aging, to participate in sing alongs, and enjoy performances by local musicians. At the Movement and Wellness tent, people will be able to take part in workshops that promote the beneficial "effects of dance and music."
The Concurso de Corridos will take place on Saturday on the Congress Stage, where local singers will compete with one song and the crowd's applause will determine the winner. Plus, the Dukes Car Club of Tucson will host lowrider customizing demonstrations and will exhibit some cars as well.
Eisele said this year also marks nine years in partnership with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. SAAF will be doing outreach and education all weekend and registering people for its 34th Annual AIDSWALK, Sunday. The walk begins at Jácome Plaza at 7 a.m. and closes with the Quilt ceremony from 10-11 a.m. The Each Names Project quilt includes individual panels made in memory of people in Tucson who died from AIDS.
The festival will go from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Eisele said that while there are schedules printed out, the program on the Tucson Meet Yourself website is the most up-to-date.
People should be aware there will be closures on Church Avenue between Congress and Pennington streets from Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. until Oct. 10 at 5 a.m.
Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.